city guide to las vegas, nevada: fun things to do that aren’t on the strip

What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. Except not really when you go so many times & bring back dreams of visiting the city again & again & again. I first went to Las Vegas when I was almost 13 for a friend’s birthday weekend to see The Phantom of the Opera. We stayed on the strip, saw the Treasure Island show, ate at Tao, & shopped at all the stores. Despite growing up in Reno, I didn’t go back again until my brother moved there just after my high school graduation & his college graduation. I drove down with my middle brother who was going to a New Found Glory show & my oldest brother showed me Las Vegas Boulevard as an adult. We went up in the Vegas Eiffel Tower, watched the water fountain show at the Bellagio, & had food & desserts at tons of other casinos.

I’ve now been down there 7 (plus!) times since 2011, each time experiencing all the fun things Las Vegas has to offer outside of the strip. There is so much more to the city than gambling & night clubs like good food, coffee, treats, & local stores. Vegas has become a special place in my heart & is now somewhere I love telling people about. So here’s my insight into the city that I’ve been traveling to for the past 10 years to first visit my brother, then also his wife whom he met there, & now, also my niece(s!) who was born there just a year ago.

Donuts

Coco Donuts – Donuts? Croissant donuts? And everything in between? Yes, please! This is hands down my favorite donuts I have ever had in Vegas. SO soft, fluffy, & sweet with the most perfect amount of glaze. It

Pinkbox Doughtnuts – Honestly, not my favorite donuts I’ve had before… But they followed me on Instagram & they make super cute unicorn donuts. They get an A+ for style & creativity, but not so much on flavor profile for a donut lover like me!

Donut Bar – This shop was brand new to Vegas when I first tried it back in 2016, they are OG’s to LA. I loved the location of this shop near old downtown Vegas & the cuteness of their donuts. They had nitro cold brew on tap which was super good & I had it there first before any of the shops in Reno started making it. I loved this donuts & the cute courtyard you could sit in while eating them.

Saint Honoré – This place is owned by the same people who created Lola Café. They make couture donuts & beignets that are to die for! Their dough is so fluffy & light, & they taste amazing. We tried a cotton candy animal circus cookie donut, a donut with roasted hazelnuts on top & filled with Nutella, an espresso filled donut that was so flavorful, & a few others that were amazing! Definitely worth fancy price.

Things To Do

Fremont Street – Did you know there was a downtown Las Vegas that existed before the strip got all it’s fame & glory? Welcome to Fremont Street where old downtown Las Vegas lives. It hold so much history of the city, is full of lights & casinos, new restaurants & bars filled in old buildings, a zip line right down the middle of the walkway & home to many local events. This is where I first gambled in Vegas with my brother when I turned 21, & if you’ve never been I just think it’s a really great spot to check out & see when you’re down there.

Downtown Container Park – You know those metal container storage pods that people use for moving/storing things? This mall or park is made up entirely of those things stacked up on top of each other!  The owner of Zappos also owns this unique location which actually has a huge children’s park right in the center of it & the adults gets to play on it once it get dark. They have stores, boutiques, AC (which is huge during a Vegas summer), & food places in each pod & it’s truly an experience. It’s also surrounded by many street art murals which are so cool to see up close on the old city walls located just above Fremont.

7 Magic Mountains – Just below the city is the art installment, the Seven Magic Mountains. My brother drove me out there back in 2016 & it truly was such a cool things to see in person. Huge stacks of brightly painted rocks just out in the middle of the desert. We had tons of fun just going around taking photos of each other in front of the rocks & of the rocks. I even met a really cool internet friend that day, @hotpinkpineapples, who was visiting Vegas from LA. Definitely check out this place if you go to Vegas, rent a car, & have some free time!

Joshua Trees – This was on my list to see one year when I visited my brother. I wanted to see Joshua Tree National Forest so we drove super far south & right into the middle of Joshua trees that surrounded you no matter which was you looked. It was such a cool thing to see. After him living there for awhile, & then getting married at Mt. Charleston, I realized you didn’t have to drive so far south to see them. But it was worth the memory & adventure!

Murals – Las Vegas truly does have some really unique & cool murals to look at & take photos with. My favorite finds have been a painting that was scratched into the bricks, a bright pink flamingo, a Rosie the Riveter lookalike, & a geometric pattern that spelled the words EVER AFTER.

Fergusons Downtown – “A city block rooted in community”, here you can find a little trove of local shops that make Vegas feel like a smaller city. The prettiest Mothership Coffee location lives here, above that you can find a really cool plant shop called Carrie Lynn’s that houses planters & tees too, & my favorite new Vegas shop, All For Our Country that is curated shop full of handmade furniture & independent brands. Head here in the morning, grab a cold brew & stroll through many more shops & stay awhile.

Treats

The Chandelier – Located in the Cosmopolitan, The Chandelier, is a bar that is three stories tall right in the middle of the casino floor. It’s draped with crystal-like decor that resembles a chandelier, duh. They are famous for this drink called Verbena, where you take a few sips, then eat the flower garnish that comes with the drink, then take another sip of the drink & it turns your mouth numb/bitter. It’s a wild experience to say the least, but it only lasts for a few moments.

Milk Bar – Okay, I know I said this post was going to be about places off the strip…but this place is A MUST & is totally worth the drive down main street. The story of this place & how it came to be is on Chef’s Table on Netflix & I recommend watching it to hear about the passion behind the phenomenon that is Cereal Milk Ice Cream created by owner Christina Tosi. If you loved sweet cereals as a kid or even now, then you’ll know the flavor of the leftover milk at the bottom of your bowl once the cereal is all gone. Now picture that flavor in a soft serve ice cream form. Yep, she did that! It’s seriously so good & they also have tons of other sweets like milk bar pie, cookies, & the famous naked confetti cakes!

Nielsen’s Frozen Custard – My brother took me to Nielsen’s on my first solo trip to Vegas & I go back every time I visit. They have a soft serve “flavor of the day” & you can add in toppings. But they also have pints & quarts that you can take home! My favorite flavors have been raspberry, lemon, vanilla, white chocolate, & salted caramel. It’s just so smooth, not too sweet, & has just a mouth watering experience with every bite!

Cinnaholic – Have you ever wanted to build your own custom cinnamon roll? Well your dream can come true at Cinnaholic. YOu can order off the menu with flavor profiles they’ve already created for you, or build your very own. I went with the build your own option when I was there & did my own twist of a salted caramel cinnamon roll combo!

Crumbl Cookies – Although this is a franchise, it started out small & the cookies are amazing! They offer 5 new flavors weekly & you have to check their Instagram every Sunday for the flavor announcements like lemon poppyseed sugar cookie, chilled Twix, raspberry cheesecake, & sniclerdoodle cupcake. Such thick cookies & the ooey-gooeist too!

Coffee

Mothership Coffee – I would move to Las Vegas just to be able to drink coffee from Mothership Coffee everyday. Lucky for me, I always brings bags of their Mexico blend home with me so that I don’t have too. But really, they have such good coffee! I love their cold brew & their vanilla lavender iced latte, & they make these “ham pillows” that are croissants filled with ham & cheese, covered in everything bagel seasoning & they’re so flaky & amazing! They have numerous locations now & each one is cuter & more modern & more aesthetically pleasing than the last!

Bad Owl Coffee – This coffee shop is Harry Potter themed & you can ever try “buter beer” here. I’m in love with their cold brew as always, & the last few times I’ve visited I’ve ordered off their menu. They make an amazing breakfast burrito, chicken pesto sandwich & lemon poppyseed muffin. This is another shop that I buy bags of coffee from to bring back home to Reno to drink so it’s obviously good black coffee!

Makers & Finders – Las Vegas has a few Makers & Finders locations. One at the Summerlin Mall & the other near downtown. They’re both super cute settings, but I love the look & feel & design of the one downtown more so. Such good coffee & I’m pretty sure I had bacon there too…sorry, it was like back in 2016! But I know my sister-in-law still frequents there so I can guarantee it’s the place to check out!

Cafe Lola – Most Instagramable place ever! It’s a cute little garden tea party vibe cafe with speciality toasts, treats, sorbet champagne, & lattes with cute sayings printed in their foam. It has a fake flower wall, a cute neon sign, white marble tables, a porch swing out front & bright pink patio table & chairs. Loved getting to experience this place because it’s the perfect spot for a blogger to do her thang!

Publicus – No one knows how to pronounce this coffee shop name. Public-us? Publi-cus? Not sure. But it does serve some really good coffee like a lime cold brew. It kind of seems to be in a sketchy spot of town, but the building is so cool! A lot of Vegas is commercialized with it’s “hip” places inside shopping centers (like Mothership Coffee), so when they have a coffee shop located in an actually old building it’s a pretty special thing.

Dark Moon Coffee Roasters – Love this shop, their hospitality, & their nitro draft cold brew. They offer specialty coffee with a desire to serve in person cocktail inspired flavors & sit at the bar kind of experience. With canned or bottled cold brew to go, you can enjoy their flavors however you’d prefer.

Food

I have had some of the best food ever on trips to Las Vegas. From expensive restaurants to fast food dining, they truly have such a unique food scene with so many options & places to try out. Here are my favorite spots I’ve eaten at while visiting Sin City.

Cafe Zupa’s – This is the best place for lunch hands down. The menu is filled with fresh ingredients to make some of the yummiest sandwiches & salads I’ve ever eaten. They have soup options every single day as well & every meal comes with a chocolate covered strawberry. My go to order is a turkey club with a cup of tomato basil soup! My mom loves their strawberry vinaigrette salad. Order out or sit in, it’s like a Qdoba but for light sandwiches, soups, & salads!

Dirt Dog – Loaded hot dogs & loaded fries. Nuff’ said. My family & I loved eating at this place the last time we were in town. I got the House Dirt Dog that comes with thousand island bacon sauce, mustard, ketchup, onions, & peppers & ordered carne asada fries on the side. SO MUCH FOOD. And it was so good. They have a location in LA & I loved how they can turn a hot dog into so much more. They had fried twinkies & Oreos to try out. My niece had a bacon wrapped hot dog which made the joint kid friendly.

Echo & Rig – I have never been to a fancier place to brunch than Echo & Rig. And I may have also gotten mimosa buzzed… I had their quiche breakfast that was so buttery & good that I didn’t even mind that it came with a breakfast side salad that was also super yum! My mom & I split blueberry pancakes while we where there & those were delicious too. Love this place & it’s worth every penny.

595 Craft & Kitchen – Hipster places always win. We had fried deviled eggs, soo good! Soft pretzels, baked wings, bahn mi’s, ahi tuna burger’s, this place truly has it all. A great place to grab a beer or a cider & enjoy some bar food too! I’m sure we’ll be going back next time we head to Vegas!

Rachel’s Kitchen – I love Rachel’s Kitchen. Mainly because they have really good fries, but also because they make a really good grilled cheese sandwich & turkey club. I haven’t tried their smoothie yet, but they look so good. And my brother ordered a kale chicken salad once & it looked so healthy & delicious.

Hobak Korean BBQ – My brother, the one who doesn’t even live in Vegas, somehow always finds the best places to eat by random chance. This is one of those places & I’m not even joking. None of us had tried Korean BBQ before but we were all sold after eating at this place. They cooked the meat right in front of you, had the best fried rice I’ve ever eaten, made delicious noodles, & had really good ice cream sandwiches made with rice cakes for dessert. We will definitely be adding this to our list of favorite Vegas spots!

Park on Fremont – I first ate at Park on Fremont back in 2014 & that’s the day I fell in love. They had sweet potato tater tots that were to die for. The second time I went back I tried their honey bbq boneless chicken wings & my brother had a mac n cheese covered hot dog. Again, so good! I loved this little restaurant that has the cutest dining courtyard just above old downtown Vegas & it holds a special place in my heart!

Egg Works – First place I ever ate at in Las Vegas after my middle brother & I road tripped all night from Reno to go visit my oldest brother in 2011. The menu is full of every kind of breakfast egg options you can imagine & it’s super good every time I go. It also helps that they have one on almost every corner!

Rice n Noodle – They don’t have an Instagram or a website, but they’re located on S Rainbow Blvd in Vegas. I’m so picky about Chinese food because I love my local Reno go-to spot, but this Chinese food was so good! It’s my brother & sister-in-law’s favorite…we ordered sesame chicken, orange wontons, cashew chicken, & fried rice!

Carson Kitchen – Another favorite of mine in Vegas is Carson Kitchen which serves American style tapas, or small dish foods. My brother took me here a few years back & besides absolutely loving the aesthetic & lighting of the old building, I was in awe of the food! Crusted mac n cheese, fig jam on crustini, & tons of other flavors in cute little cast iron dishes. I dream of going back!

Lindo Michoacán – My sister-in-law took me here for lunch the last time I visited Vegas & she told me she had been coming there since before she met my brother. They serve fresh guacamole made table-side, grande margaritas, fideo soup, & the best carne asada tacos served with handmade tortillas that seriously delicious. Love this place & can’t wait to go back!

Cottonwood Station Eatery – Tucked in the cooler hills just outside of Vegas, loves this small town community & this restaurant that serves amazing pizza! We tried the margarita pizza & one that had figs on it, try them both while enjoying the mellow countryside view.

Shopping

There is tons of shopping all over Las Vegas. Malls on the strip, stores inside the casinos, boutiques all over town, & shopping enter after shopping center found all over the city. You of course can hit up any of the malls in Vegas that carry all the typical stores, but I’m sharing with you two different malls that I love to stop at whenever I’m in town.

Downtown Summerlin Mall – It’s located on the more west side of the city. It’s an outdoor mall that feels like it’s its own little town. You can park on the outside of the mall in a larger parking lot, but also in front of some of the storefronts that are all gridlocked. My favorite stores here at LUSH Cosmetics, the Free People section inside their Macy’s, Makers & Finders coffee shop, Kirkland’s, & Pieology, which is a pizza place. This mall is less than 10 minutes from my brother’s house so we always make a stop here!

Antique Malls – Vegas has so many good antique malls & thrifts stores to check out. Back in 2015 on a trip I took I dropped my brother off at work & drive myself to one & found some of my most favorite trinkets yet. A milk white glass bowl etched with a diamond design on the side & little legs, a vintage blue toy truck, & a speckled camping mug. All three of those pieces are in my room today & I love that I remember exactly where I got them.

Bloom – My parents absolutely love visit this local shop every time they come to Vegas. It’s more of a country style decor store with rustic vibes. They sells paints & brushes for DIY projects so we always stop here for my dad to grab supplies if he needs them & my for my mom to “see what’s there” incase she needs something.

IKEA – Don’t laugh. We always go to IKEA if we drive to Vegas since we don’t have one in Reno & it’s right by my brother’s house. Last time we went, it was my dad’s first time & he looooved it. Even bought himself a $2 smoothie. I love their planters & smaller home decor items like mugs, cheese boards, & rattan baskets.

Wishlist

Toast Society – I found this spot last summer after I already was heading home on my trip. They have the yummiest looking loaded toasts & the prettiest Instagram. I would love to have breakfast here on my next trip!

Hiking – I have never gone to Vegas during the cooler winter months so I haven’t gotten a chance to go on a hike there. It’s way too hot to even be outside during the summer, but I think it would be neat to plan a trip to go there when taking a hike through their unique desert mountains would be possible.

Milk + T – I have never had boba tea before, but after seeing this place on Instagram I really want to try it out. They serve their drinks in these cool jars that you get to keep & I think the flavors look really fun!

Sunrise Coffee –  Who knew there was still a coffee shop I haven’t been to while traveling, but there is! I want to make sure on my next trip to check out this coffee shop that seems to have a pretty cool inside & outside aesthetic. Here’s to hoping the coffee is good too!

Neon Museum – I can’t believe I have never been to the place where all the neon vintage signs live, but I haven’t! Sometimes going to cities when visiting family is the main priority makes it hard to get to do the fun touristy things. Really hoping to get to see this place in person one day!

Flower Child – My family ordered food here the last time we visited, but I wasn’t hungry so I didn’t order anything. Big mistake, HUGE! I’d love to go back & eat at the restaurant in person for lunch or something. The menu is full of fresh & healthy recipes that are so colorful & delicious looking. Also, the space is beautifully lit up at night & I’m sure looks even more beautiful during the daytime. Reno, why don’t we have more places like this?!?

 

So now, after going to Las Vegas almost ten times I have written a useful guide. I love Las Vegas & think it’s such a unique city to experience outside of the typical reasons people tend to go there. I’ve been to a ton more restaurants than what I have listed here, but after so many trips places either close or I honestly forget about them. But I really believe it’s a great city to visit & explore!

You can read my first post on Vegas that is super silly & mainly focuses on my outfit. And you can also read my second post about Las Vegas that definitely talks more about some restaurants & fun places, things we did on that trip, & take a look at some decent travel photos from a few years ago. I visited twice in the past few months & have recently kept this blog post updated into January of 2021!

Be sure to follow me on my Instagram @abbeykayblog to see my future trips to Las Vegas! And check out my “Vegas” story highlight & my #abbeykaytakesonvegas hashtag to see some fun shots from all of my Las Vegas adventures.

 

Always know that what happens in Vegas doesn’t stay in Vegas when you can bring back tons of photos & memories…& plenty of reasons to go back!

– abbey kay

 

Did I miss anything you love about Las Vegas? Comment below & tell me your favorite spots!

 

 

 

*brought to you by a girl who loves Las Vegas & she cannot lie

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